New Jersey battles mercury contamination
Trenton, NJ— In its 2005 Mid-Atlantic Mercury Report Card released this month, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) recognized New Jersey’s achievements in regulating mercury contamination, awarding it the highest grades in four of seven categories among the Mid-Atlantic states and noting that “New Jersey stands out as the leader in addressing emissions of mercury.”
“Protecting public health from toxic mercury emissions has been a high priority for New Jersey and we will continue to lead the nation in this effort,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell. “We are pleased that the NWF has recognized our efforts to protect the public and our wildlife from the dangers of mercury. We hope this recognition will prompt the legislature to complete work on the bill by Senator Steve Sweeney and Assemblyman John Burzichelli to remove mercury switches from the waste stream.”
This is the first year NWF has released a mercury report card in the Mid-Atlantic region, but a partnership with the New England Zero-Mercury Campaign that produced similar reports for the New England region proved to be an effective method of promoting further action from the states.
New Jersey received top marks, an A, for its efforts in reducing state mercury air emissions within the state.
DEP passed stringent new regulations for controlling mercury emissions from power plants in November 2004. These regulations are the most comprehensive mercury standards in the nation, reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, iron and steel melters, and solid waste incinerators by up to 90 percent by the end of 2007.
New Jersey also received an A for advocating strong federal policies on mercury. Commissioner Campbell has repeatedly challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed mercury standards as inadequate, while seven of the state’s 13 U.S. representatives and both senators have signed letters encouraging strict federal regulations for mercury emissions from power plants.
New Jersey is the only state in the region that has passed legislation requiring the state to provide information regarding mercury-contaminated fish to high-risk populations and to post such information in public places. DEP has also initiated a Mercury Task Force to research the sources of mercury and its impacts on the environment and to develop a mercury pollution reduction plan for the state.